Leadership is one of the most essential skills for a coach (or an athlete too, for that matter) to possess. Common thought is that leadership ability is something you are born with: either you are a good leader or you aren’t. In fact, that is completely false. Leadership ability can be developed and improved just like any other skill. This guide will outline three important strategies of leadership that are often overlooked, but need to be constantly in mind if you wish to lead your athlete(s) to success. These strategies are adapted from The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene, a must read for coaches and athletes alike.This is part one of a three part series. Read part two or part three.
Strategy #5 – Avoid the Snares of Groupthink: The Command and Control Strategy
The essence of this strategy is that one general needs to be in control of their army. If command is shared, the army will move much more slowly and will be unable to adapt to the changing situations in battle. Let’s see how a coach can use this knowledge to their advantage.How can coaches use this strategy? Coaches are in a position where they are surrounded by people who believe they can do their job better than they can. Those people can be other coaches, their athletes with high testosterone levels, school administrators, employers, etc. If you allow these other people to have input in the decision-making process for the team, you limit your ability to adapt to the changing situations you face. Let’s look at a common example.
An example of the strategy in action.Example: a star quarterback has routinely broken team rules. You, as head coach, want to suspend the player for at least two games according to team rules. However, your offensive coordinator wants the quarterback’s actions to be overlooked. He doesn’t want him suspended, he wants him to keep playing for the upcoming games. The backup quarterback isn’t nearly as good as the first string. What do you do? Option #1: you stand your ground and suspend the quarterback for the two games. You review your strategy against the upcoming teams, making changes necessary to deal with the suspended quarterback and still give your team the best opportunity to win.Option #2: you relinquish overall control of the team to the offensive coordinator and overlook the quarterback’s actions.Now, let’s analyze the results of these actions.
Results of option #1: you lose the first game, but win the second. Your players are taught an important lesson: no one is more important than the team. Rules will be enforced regardless of who breaks them. Team discipline increases as no one wants to challenge the coach to suspend them. The quarterback comes back better than before. He used to take his position for granted. Now he plays better than before, and follows all team rules. This is the smarter option to take, especially for the long-term.
Results of option #2: you win both games. The quarterback becomes bolder in his independence. He believes he’s above the other players and team rules. Now you’re constantly overlooking his actions. Other players see this and start breaking rules like the quarterback does. The team becomes split in a variety of segments: some members break all the rules, some question your ability to lead, some simply stop caring. Team discipline is nonexistent. You try to crack down on discipline, but your players see through your actions. Players have lost their respect for you. You may win in the short-term, but for the long-term this will destroy anything you have been building. Being the only person in charge of your team is essential. Ignore this strategy at your own risk.Further Reading:The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene – this series is based off of three strategies discussed in Mr. Greene’s book. However, all strategies discussed in the book are immediately implementable in sports. I strongly recommend this book.The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – another outstanding book by Mr. Greene. This book will teach you the different ways people will try to influence you as a coach, and how your opponent tries to gain control over your team’s performance.